Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

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You Heard it Here First: The Exclusive Need for the Proclaimed Word…

September 3, 2012

Having previously covered in the prior post some positive affirmations of Christ’s exclusive role as savior and the exclusivity of the Gospel, we shall now turn to two deficits that appear within the inclusivist argument and attempt to show how these deficits are corrected by the claims of exclusivism.

Throughout the biblical narrative are instances of the general revelation of God in creation working in concert with God’s special revelation to His people.  However salvation is seen as coming not from the recognition of God within creation, but rather from deferent faith in light of His revealed mastery of it.  An excellent example of this lies in the first three chapters of the book of Joshua.  Israel, God’s exclusively chosen race, has been delivered from the bonds of Egypt and received the special revelation of His Law, and has arrived at the banks of the Jordan.  As Israel’s spies hid within the home of Rahab the prostitute, Rahab provides an illuminating and ultimately justifying testimony concerning God and His creation. ” I know that the Lord has given you this land…we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea… as soon as we heard it our hearts melted… for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11)  Rahab doesn’t trust in God because he merely created the water, rather she trusts in His revelation displayed in parting the waters for His people.  An act He would perform again in Chapter 3 with the Jordan.  Her confession of this truth, and her corresponding action of hiding the spies displays that God justified her by faith. (James 2:25)  God general revelation in creation becomes special and able to save when God wields His creation in an act of revelation to His people.  The water alone saves none, but belief in He who parts the waters; it is by water and spirit that one is born again. (John 3:5)  The above speaks to effectiveness or lack thereof general revelation, if it is ineffective alone for salvation what is its purpose according to Scripture.

Scripture clearly indicates that the general revelation of God in creation was given to remove excuse from those who would claim ignorance of God absent access to the “gospel.”  A text which is indispensable to this point is Romans 1:19-23

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Inclusivists attempt to address the issue of the “seeker” outside of the reach of the revealed gospel.  What of the person who would want salvation but can not access it because he/she has no access to the gospel, which exclusivists claim is necessary?  The exclusivist response to this query would be that the natural man rejects God in light of creation rather than seeks Him.  Having received revelation about God’s existence from creation, and rejecting it, they are without excuse before God.  Instead of acknowledging divinity’s true source they exchanged His truth for His creation and thereby inherited a shadow of the Light available to them.  Luther comments on this passage drawing attention to the excuse that some may say that, “only in our time it was possible to know God.”  One could add  ‘place’ to the listed restriction of time.  Whether located in a different time, or a different and perhaps distant place, “it has been possible to know him [God] from the beginning of the world and at all times, and it is possible now.”[1]  So it is clear from this passage that God’s general revelation in creation is meant not for salvation but to act as a witness against those who would claim that His attributes were unperceivable.

The exclusivist argument is not without objection, in conclusion we shall now briefly address two common critiques.

One.  Is it not unjust for God to condemn people merely because they have never heard the gospel of Christ?  Does this not impinge on His mercy?[2]  The answer to the first questions is as follows;  people are not condemned because they have not heard the gospel, rather people are condemned because they are guilty.  This may appear to represent circular reasoning but scripture clearly states that our guilt lies not in what we have done but in who we are as sinner.  All of us have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom 3:23) and each and every one of us is guilty in need of forgiveness from the outset.  Even those who hear the gospel and reject it do so because the natural mind is limited by its sinful condition and does not comprehend spiritual things. (I Cor. 2:14)  That one receives salvation at all is a less a testimony of having heard the word and responded, and more to being a recipient of God’s grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Two.  Are there not examples in scripture of those who received salvation apart from the specific revelation of Christ, and so by extension is that same generic faith, held by some in the world today sufficient to provide salvation?[3]  This argument addresses the idea of “holy pagans” individuals who appear in the Bible as believers but do so without any evidence, within the text,  that they were ever exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These include: Abel, Noah, Melchizedek, Job, Jethro, Balaam, Naaman the Ninevites and Cornelius.[4]  Scripture provides the key to understanding this mystery.  Acts 4:12 states, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  This axiom was true for the time of Melchizedek, as it was for Paul, and as it is today.  Christ too stated that no one comes to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6)  That these men are listed in scripture as being believers, saved by God, is a testimony that at sometime and at some point, they experienced the special revelation of God unto Salvation.  The revelation may have been in the form of a promise ala Abram or Noah, nonetheless they were responding to a specific promise in faith to a special revelation from Yahweh.  What they displayed was more that a generic faith in an undefined creator God.[5]

That God provides access to Himself is by far the greatest measure of grace extended to His creation.  While His attributes are clearly displayed in the universe, its order and form, beauty and character, His greatest gift is the revelation of His Son.  Those whom he foreknew He predestined to receive this gift, and by it traverse the hurdle of sin and be justified into the transcendence of glory.   Such is the nature of the exclusive revelation of the Gospel.


[1] Luther, Martin. Lectures on Romans. ed. Wilhelm Pauck. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press. 1961.) 23.

[2] Peterson, 15.

[3] Ibid. 15.

[4] Kaiser, Walter. “Holy Pagans: Reality or Myth?” in Faith Comes by Hearing ed. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Downers Grove: IVP. 2008) 123.

[5] Ibid. 141.

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Some Meditations on Scripture…

April 4, 2011

Periodically I post some thoughts on Scripture.  This blog is devoted to that Word, which God asks that we receive with meekness, that it might save our souls.  So it is with meekness and reverence that I approach the text and ask for it to speak, salvation, surety, and profound truth into my life.  The Word is the greatest purest vehicle for the demonstration and pronouncement of God’s eternal glory.  So if we are to delight ourselves in Him, let us do it through His gift of revelation, which never ceases to reveal, pierce and secure.

It is my prayer that these posts will point you to that gift, and encourage you find joy in its receipt.  Posts to follow.

First up: Our confidence in Ministry, Hebrews 7.

Next: Speak to the Nations…

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Hope and Fear Revealed…

May 4, 2010

Revelation 19-22.

Out of all the chapters in the Bible these three are, for me, the most awe inspiring and frightening.  My fright does not come from any fear of abandonment or uncertainty quite the opposite.  These passages inspire a fear of God, a healthy fear, one we are far too reticent to embrace today.  There is so much packed into these passages, theologically speaking, that it is safe to say no two groups have found agreement on their total meaning.  And I must be honest in saying that my speculation as to “the end” spelled out in these chapters is just that, speculation, marred by a fallen mind.  So I leave these chapters with two primary thoughts; one fear and one hope.

My fear.  The pervasive all encompassing nature of God’s Holy Glory.  Throughout these chapters, verse by verse, we are confronted with God’s un-yielding holiness.  We know the song that we will sing eternally, from previous chapters and from Isaiah “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”(Rev 4:8)  This song is made manifest in God’s actions throughout 19-22; God will judge completely the whole of heaven and earth and the armies of Heaven WILL bring recompense against the wicked.  The birds will gorge on the flesh of the wicked, on the beast and the false prophet, and Satan himself will be cast into everlasting seperation from all that is good.  Those who are not chosen, separated out and made holy by Christ, finding their names absent in the book of life; WILL be cast into the lake of fire.  These ends and these judgments are certain, they WILL happen and they should inspire us to warn others of what will come.  We must tell others that while God’s judgement is certain, so too is His grace to save all who call on His name.

My Hope.  One of the most touching verses in all of Scripture is found in Revelation 21:5, “and he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”  Thanks be to God that this phrase is true; that it has been true throughout history; and that it will be true for all of eternity.  Where would I be if not a new creation in Christ?  What hope is found in the truth that He who made the world; who will judge the world to utter destruction; shall once again remake the world, heavens and earth to and for his glory.  And from that glory this new creation shall never pass.  Darkness will perish and night shall be no more, God will be the light and all of us found in Him shall reign with Him forever.  I and all of this creation yearn for that which will be made new for His glory; that I may enjoy Him forever and sing Hallelujah to Him who called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

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Chosen…

April 9, 2010

Ephesians 1:3-14

How glorious is it that our salvation was written long ago apart from human hands or deeds.  Our hope rests not in our choosing Christ but in his choice of us as predestined children waiting to be brought into the family of God with an eye toward “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”(10)

This truth is not a cold distant reality that we observe intellectually and hope is true.  This promise is made real in the promise of the Holy Spirit, in which we have been sealed.  And it is in this sealing we find a guarantee that what we did not work to gain shall be our inheritance in the truest since of the word.

Given freely by a God who, in love, blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (3), lavished upon us in all His grace. (7) Our possession is guaranteed to the praise of his glory, what a hope we have in Him who chose us.

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The True Sinners Prayer…

March 13, 2009

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Psalm 51

          

When reading these weighty psalms written by David, full of truth and wisdom concerning God and his power, it is so easy to forget that this pillar of our faith was all too human. 

        Psalm 51 serves as a wake up call.  A wake up call to David and the extent of his sin and need for God’s mercy.  A wake up call to us, that even the most profound and inspiring and gifted individuals are flawed and sinful like the rest of us.  What a gift we are given to see how a truly good man “after God’s own heart” approaches God in the waste and wake of sin.  I have been there many times.  And often for lack of any better or more original phrase call out to Almighty God, the God of my salvation, “have mercy on me.”  My mind like David often can not get past the thought of my sin, “it is ever before me” as it was David.  This psalm is a primer on sin and its consequences and on God and His power. 

Sin is ever-present, as are its effects (v3), and no matter who or whom we sin against all sin is against He who is without sin. (v4)  But this holy God is merciful (v1), and creates in us a pure heart and cleanses us (vv7-10) and restores us and delivers us (vv12,14).  He does these not because we work at it or because we strive to be good, but if our heart is truly broken and contrite.  I wonder if David thought back to Saul and how he was told that to obey is far better than sacrifice, it is the heart’s condition that concerns God.  If I had my way I would make this the “Sinners Prayer” for it was only when I came to realize that I had sin before me, a merciful God above me, and a broken heart within me that I came to the knowledge of a personal God who cleanses, delivers and restores my soul.  With this experience I too wanted to “sing aloud of His righteousness…” “and my mouth show forth His praise.”  That is the result of a true repentant, Sinners Prayer.

 

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CROSSroads

August 13, 2008

The CROSSing…

We are created in his image. (Gen1:27) He endows us with reflections of His Character and Nature.(Rom8:29)  Consistent with that truth we are always true to our nature as He is true to His, Immutable, and consistent.(Mal3:6)  We are true to a nature that is damning and to our detriment. (Rom3:23, 6:23)  He is true to a nature for good and for His glory. (Rom1:20, John1:1, Tit1:2, Ps9:7/100:5, I Pt1:25) 

Two parallel tracks, never to meet, one sovereign the other subordinate each heading in opposite direction. (Is55:8)  The fullness of His character is displayed in that the Sovereign creates a point at which two parallel lines meet, impossible but for grace.(Mk10:27)  At that point courses reverse and the nature of one begins to change, the mirror image becomes more complete.(I Cor. 13:12)  We begin to reflect not only consistency in nature but character as well.  Our destination forever changed and our arrival at the point of His purpose and design.(Icor15:19-23) This is what happens when two lines cross.

“for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.(Rom5:6-8)”